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Iowa Hawkeyes face South Carolina in tonight's women's basketball semifinal

Iowa guard Caitlin Clark (22) goes up for a layup.
Stephen Brashear
AP Photo File
Iowa guard Caitlin Clark (22) goes up for a layup against Colorado guard Tameiya Sadler during the second half of a Sweet 16 college basketball game of the NCAA tournament last week. Clark was honored Thursday as The Associated Press women's college basketball Player of the Year.

The University of Iowa women’s basketball team has made it to the NCAA Final Four. They’re facing the University of South Carolina Gamecocks in tonight’s semifinal. Dargan Southard is the Iowa women’s basketball beat writer for the Des Moines Register and is in Dallas covering the team. IPR’s Catherine Wheeler spoke with him about what to expect from the Hawkeyes tonight.

Catherine Wheeler: What's the season been like for the Hawkeyes?

Dargan Southard: Yeah, it's been really exciting. They started the year ranked preseason in the Top 10. And so, you know, getting here was a goal, certainly, but it took a lot of ups and downs throughout the season. But really, you know, this last month has been pretty incredible. They won the Big 10 tournament in Minneapolis. And then they won the regional, the first two games, in Iowa City. And then they went to games in Seattle. And so now we're here in Dallas at the Final Four for first time in 30 years. So it's been a bit of fun ride for sure.

Like you said, it's making it to the Final Four is a little bit of a historic moment for their team and for their coach, right?

Absolutely. You know, Lisa Bluder has been doing this a long time: 20 plus years at Iowa, 40 years overall. And this is the first time she's ever been to the Final Four. So kind of puts it in perspective how hard it is to get here and how well you have to play, and you have to get some breaks too. But yeah, definitely a big accomplishment for Lisa Bluder

Junior Caitlin Clark has been a standout on the team, especially this season. She was just announced as the Naismith Women's College Player of the Year. And Clark's gotten a lot of attention as she earned a 41-point-triple-double last game. What makes her such a special player?

I really think it's her fearlessness and her confidence. She definitely knows that she's the best player on the floor 99% of the time, and isn't afraid to show it and isn't afraid to let you know that. She's been really a revelation for this program to come from Dowling [Catholic High School], come from Des Moines, stay in state and, you know, really, she was the one that called her shot back in high school to take this team to the Final Four. So it's been it's been a special ride for her as well.

What is she like as a player?

She's pretty much the kind of the modern player these days. You see Steph Curry's kind of set a tone in basketball for how you can play and she pretty much plays like that. Pulling up from wherever she wants, you know, whether that's 40 feet out, 30 feet out. And you know, she knows how to win, too. She's been clutch and huge in these big games, these last couple of games. So definitely a special player, a generational player. And you know, the big reason why Iowa is here for sure.

So the Hawkeyes are facing a University of South Carolina team that's a No. 1 seed in the tournament and they have an undefeated record. What's Iowa’s chance of winning tonight and what will they need to pull off a victory?

Yeah, so it's really a clash of styles. You know, South Carolina has Aliyah Boston, who is the Defensive Player of the Year. She won the player of the year last year. You know, a very big team, a very kind of grueling, tough team. Iowa kind of plays the other way where they like to run up and down and shoot and play with a little more finesse. So, you know, it's gonna be an uphill battle. Iowa, I think, is about 11 and a half point underdog. So you know, it's going to take everybody playing their best and putting their best performance on the court to pull what would certainly be a stunner for sure.

Catherine Wheeler was Iowa Public Radio's All Things Considered host and a reporter from 2021 to 2023.